Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
 
July 20, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Gift Baskets

One of the things we’re most excited about at Uncorked Ventures is the launch of our gift basket program. Over the past few months we’ve spent time attempting to create what we think is the correct look and feel as well as product offerings for our gift baskets.

 

The focus for us and our gift baskets was two fold. To start, we wanted to only include products which fit well with our wine offerings. While quality is our foremost concern, smaller, artisan family owned businesses without wide distribution were what we were looking for if possible. I think you’ll find that the companies we’ve been able to partner with meet both of those parameters while offering some of the best gourmet foods available anywhere. We’ll talk more in this space in the coming weeks and months about what we like so much about Hurley Farms, Sonoma Valley Nut Company, Del Olivia olive oil and TCHO.

Packaging was the second aspect we were concerned with. While we don’t necessarily have a problem with the sort of industry standard packaging (cellophane around a light wooden basket) we simply didn’t think those type of baskets would hold up when shipped across the country nor did we think that they offered the right high end feel to match the quality of products we’ll be including. Instead, we opted for wooden boxes to hold our products which we know will hold up better when shipped, as well as becoming an item which our gift basket customers will keep over time to store practically anything. Additionally, for our corporate gift basket clients, we can brand their company logo and a phone number directly on the wood box. I think our corporate clients will find that these branded wooden box options offer a lot of value.

Questions? Comments? We’d love to hear them, but we’re very happy with the three gift baskets which we currently have available with either one bottle or two bottles of wine included. Lastly, I should mention that all of our gift baskets feature Free Shipping.
 

Mark Aselstine
 
July 13, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

More About that Happy Hour

As you can tell by our Happy Hour post, it has been an enjoyable weekend. We celebrated the launch of the new and improved Uncorked Ventures Website, by opening a few bottles of our favorites from past shipments.

Sojourn Sangiocamo Pinot Noir: Sojoun’s winemaker Erich Bradley has been a favorite of ours since we first tasted his work at Audelssa. Auselssa features mountain fruit and we enjoyed seeing how he was taking intense fruit and applying Burgundian winemaking principles to it, in order to help it become more approachable. We also noted, that since Erich was a Burgundian winemaker that it would make sense to find a winery at which he made Pinot Noir. Sojourn Cellars is that winery and we have especially appreciated Erich and his business partner Craig Hansert for both the wines they make, but also the way they do business. Sourcing fruit from some of the best vineyards in California.

Priest Ranch Petite Sirah 2007: Petite Sirah has become something of a favorite varietal for Uncorked Ventures. Yes, the grape does create a “big” wine but it is also only grown and made into quality wine by a select few vintners across the state. We think this version from Priest Ranch is among the best. With the 07 scored at 95 points by Robert Parker, we’re not alone and our customers can appreciate their $40 price point which makes this Petite Sirah among the best values anywhere in Napa Valley.

JR Wines Cabernet Sauvignon: While prices for top flight Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon have seemingly started to get out of control, we find one which delivers incredible value. JR Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, scored in the mid 90 point range by Robert Parker delivers the type of classic Napa Valley Cab which has made the region famous. A great wine to experience the best of Napa Valley, without the $100+ price point.

Robert Keenan Napa Valley Merlot: Keenan is one of the larger wineries we have featured in any of our wine clubs, with a total production of around 15,000 cases of wine per year. We thought that their Napa Valley Merlot was simply too good of a value to pass up for our Wine Exploration club. In a wine club which averages $20 per bottle, it is typically difficult to find quality wines from Napa Valley. Keenan is a mountain vineyard located on Spring Mountain. 

Mark Aselstine
 
July 12, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Time Flies By + Price Inflation

How time seems to fly by and price inflation.

As we continue to transition to the new UncorkedVentures.com both on the front end (the portion you see on the website) as well as on the back end (customer data etc) we’re also making plans for upcoming shipments.

The summer is a fun time for us for a number of reasons. Matt and I both try and catch a week or two away, sometimes more successfully than others while the summer also offers a good buying season for upcoming wine club shipments.

What we’re finding? Pinot Noir seems to continue to be an especially good deal, with quite a few world class Pinot Noir’s priced in the mid to upper $40 range.

We’re also continuing to explore Napa Valley for Cabernet Sauvignon. We’ve heard from a few people in the industry that $65 per bottle for Cab is the new $55 (which I might mention was the new $45 only a few years ago) which can create its own set of challenges both for independent wine clubs such as ours as well as the wineries themselves.

As the weather continues to be warm, we’ll continue looking. There is a lot of great wine out there and we appreciate the opportunity to work to find it on your behalf.
 

Mark Aselstine
 
July 7, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

How Robert Parker became Robert Parker

After our short entry yesterday about wine reviews, it made me realize that not all of our readers would be completely familiar with the most influential reviewers and perhaps more importantly, how they were able to obtain that level of influence.

Robert Parker and his Wine Advocate Magazine:

Parker’s personal story is an interesting one and I’m surely not the first person to ask how someone from Baltimore (hardly the wine center of the world) who is a practicing lawyer ends up as the most influential wine critic in the world, especially when it comes to California and Bordeaux vintages.

Part of Parker’s rise to fame was his insistence, correctly stated at the time, that most reviewers in the 1970’s had some vested interest in the wine industry. That’s hardly seen today outside of a few examples (Wine Enthusiast both rates wine as well as sells it) in large part because of Parker and some of the changes he helped to create. Parker is also largely credited with inventing (or popularizing) the 100 point scale which has helped consumers make some independent assessment about the value of a wine (we all love 90 point wine, but not if it’s priced at $200), without having ever purchased a bottle themselves. Parker’s 100 point system is often misunderstood, but the idea is to score wines based on the amount of pleasure one derives from them.  For the average consumer, this is a powerful statement.  While so many within the industry preach that you should know what a classic Right Bank Bordeaux is suppose to taste like, that's not important.  The only real question is how much did you enjoy the wine?

So why is Parker the foremost wine critic of our time? Personally, I think his combination of unbiased reviews, easy to understand language, standardized evaluation criteria and attempting to keep industry influences at bay as much as possible. He was the first wine critic able to successfully build a career as a consumer centric critic, instead of an industry mouthpiece.

There are, of course, plenty of criticisms of Robert Parker and his affect on the wine industry-we’ll follow up with some of those tomorrow. Some of these are valid, or somewhat valid and others are more fantasy than reality. At the end of the day, at Uncorked Ventures we recognize Parker’s work for what it is: some of the most valuable wine reviews available anywhere.
 

Mark Aselstine
 
July 6, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

The Best Wine Reviews

Where to go for wine reviews?

It’s one of the most common questions people ask when they are first beginning to drink wine, where should they go to find quality wine reviews. There are, of course, quite a few significant wine critics whose opinions come formed in vastly different formats.

Robert Parker: Despite having recently retired from current California vintages, has the highest profile of any individual wine taster and unlike many others, his name is more recognizable than his magazine which is called Wine Advocate. For the first time wine drinker, Wine Advocate might not be the best choice because it is basically written in black and white (yes, there is some red) and only offers scores and commentary. When I first started drinking wine, I needed more education about the wine industry and winemaking process.

Wine Spectator Magazine: In my opinion a good starting place for a new wine drinker. Yes, there are plenty of scores but the magazine also does full lgenth features on wine regions, wineries and winemakers. As an educational tool Wine Spectator is top notch and can have the effect of getting your non wine drinking friends and family to pick up the magazine because it is beautifully presented. My only real complaint is that the wines which are often scored as “Best Values” are often impossible to find.

Cellartracker: Without a doubt the king in online, consumer generated reviews. Cellartracker allows you to review wines as well as keep track of your own personal cellar. I think it’s useful as a tool because you can find other consumers with similar palate’s to your own and use their positive reviews to help you find other wines to try.  It also relieves the problem of keeping small pieces of paper or a book with your reviews (since those are generally not accessible when ordering at a restaurant)

While many people seem to get caught up with finding the best reviews, we can’t neglect to mention that no one is going to ever know your own tastes and palate better than yourself. Drink what you want!  At Uncorked Ventures we firmly believe that over time your palate is going to evolve and change and more than anything else, wine is meant to be enjoyed.